"Overkill: NGO Responses to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict"
September 25, 2006
During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, major human rights and humanitarian aid NGOs issued numerous statements about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. These statements disproportionately focused on allegations of Israeli “war crimes” and “violations of international law” while giving much less attention to Hezbollah, including the approximately 4,000 rockets (Link has expired) fired at Israeli towns and cities in four weeks, and the militia's use of human shields.
Number of Statements and Reports per NGO between July 12 and September 15, 2006
Total: 114 Statements
- Amnesty International - 27
- B'Tselem - 1
- Christian Aid - 9
- EMHRN - 3
- EuroMed – 1
- Human Rights Watch – 29
- ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) – 1
- International Commission of Jurists - 2
- International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) – 6
- KAIROS – 1
- Medecins Sans Frontieres - 3
- MIFTAH - 6
- Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) - 2
- Oxfam - 11
- Physicians for Human Rights - Israel – 1
- PNGO – Palestinian NGO Network - 2
- UNICEF – 2
- War on Want – 1
- World Vision International – 6
Examples: “The pattern of Israeli behavior in southern Lebanon suggests a deliberate policy...Israel blames Hezbollah for the massive civilian toll in Lebanon, claiming that they are...fighting from within the civilian population. This is a convenient excuse,” Op-Ed in The Guardian, July 31 by Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert.
“Israel must put an immediate end to attacks against civilians,” Amnesty International, July 13 Press Release.
“The force being used by the Israeli troops...is inhuman and savage, aiming at exterminating as many people as possible. This brings to our minds the force used by Serbia in Bosnia as well as the crimes against humanity committed in the Second World War,” Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), July 24 open letter to Condoleezza Rice.
Common themes in the NGO statements include:
- Accusations of "disproportionate force" by Israel, with no explanation of what would comprise a proportionate response to Hezbollah’s terror and missile attacks.
- Judgments and claims regarding "military targets" in the context of asymmetric warfare that most humanitarian and human rights NGOs are not equipped to make.
- Condemnation of Israel's targeting of bridges, major roads and the Beirut Airport as "collective punishment," despite the clear military rationale of sealing off air and sea ports, roads and other such targets to prevent the re-supply of arms from Syria and Iran.
- Political lobbying such as sending letters to politicians demanding that pressure be brought to bear on Israel; calling for the review of trade agreements and similar campaigns.
- Little mention that Hezbollah's concrete reinforced military headquarters are located under buildings in southern Beirut, and that the positioning of military/guerrilla installations in residential areas is considered a war crime, as defined by Protocol I (1977) to the Geneva Convention, article 51(7), relating to human shields. Hezbollah also stores and launches missiles from civilian villages in southern Lebanon, but NGOs dismiss or ignore the human rights implications of Hezbollah's use of human shields.
- Minimal references to the role of Iran and Syria in providing missiles and support to Hezbollah, and other context-related details.
- Few NGOs call for the release of the two abducted Israeli soldiers, and there is little attention given to Israeli IDPs (internally displaced persons) numbering approximately 500,000, or to Israeli victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks.
- The larger and better-publicized "reports" by HRW and Amnesty International were highly flawed and removed the context of the war and Hezbollah’s tactics from the analysis of human rights claims. HRW's 49-page report, “Fatal Strikes”, focused on accusations against Israel, and cited unverifiable and highly questionable sources. To date, Amnesty has issued two reports; the first, “Deliberate destruction or 'collateral damage'? Israeli Attacks on Civilian Infrastructure" - August 23, focused entirely on Israel and dismissed Hezbollah’s use of human shields when evaluating Israel’s military operations, as highlighted by NGO Monitor’s analysis. The second, issued on September 14, with a far more neutral headline: “Hezbollah's Attacks on Northern Israel”. A third Amnesty report on Hezbollah's use of human shields has been promised.